Fans of the television series Friends will remember the episode when Ross Geller goes to a tanning-spray booth to get a little color before going out with a new date. Unfortunately, he keeps turning the wrong way in the shower-like booth, gets sprayed way too many times in the front, and comes out looking like he's joined a minstrel show. When I got an invitation to try out a new tanning-spray machine at Sun Square in Tel Aviv, I immediately thought about this episode, but decided to see if I would fare better than the hapless Ross. With my native-Dutch pale skin, I would be an ideal test subject for this supposedly harmless tanning method. At Sun Square, two different methods are used; one is the shower-like booth called Tan Pulse, and the other is a hand-held spray called Sun Gun. The Tan Pulse gives you a tan in just 60 seconds; you have to press a button and turn when told to do so. Since this was my first time trying any of these methods, the Tan Pulse preferred by more experienced users was not recommended. Instead, I had to stand inside a half-circle backdrop, and someone sprayed me from different angles with the Sun Gun; this takes about five minutes altogether. Unfortunately, nobody told me I should come to such salons wearing dark clothes, since the spray does get on your clothes after use, and my light-colored garments did get pretty dirty at certain spots. You should also not put on any body lotion or wear any perfume before undergoing this treatment. For best results, you should use some kind of body-peeling lotion first; this recommendation goes for all self-tanning products, including the sprays and creams you use at home. I have to say that I was quite pleased with the result of this self-tanning method, and it gave me a very natural-looking tan. By coincidence, I had recently returned from a Florida vacation, and people were commenting on how tanned I looked. The tan stayed on for about a week, and the areas where it disappeared first were the face and d collet . A one-time treatment with the Sun Gun is NIS 150, and the Tan Pulse is NIS 170; if you take a subscription for a series of 10 tanning sessions, you will get two free. Obviously such steady use isn't cheap, but many people also go to such salons before a big event such as a wedding, or because they don't want to start their holiday looking totally pale, for example. The sprays used at Sun Square are sugar-based and UV-free; the tan does not protect from damaging UV-rays, and you should continue to use sun protection. This is precisely what worries the Israel Cancer Association. If people already have a tan, there is a false sense of security, and it is easy to forget the sunscreen. Most self-tanning creams or sprays do contain an ingredient called dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which causes the coloring of the upper skin layer for about three days to a week, but doesn't protect from sun damage. The Israel Cancer Associations also strongly warns against the use of self-tanning beds, which do emit damaging UV-rays. FOR THOSE who prefer to "tan" at home, there are the self-tanning products on pharmacy shelves in the form of sprays, gels, mousse or creams. Clarins has a self-tanning instant gel, and a self-tanning milk with a sun protection factor of 6; both products are NIS 139 for 125 ml. The Instant Gel allows you to get dressed right after application; the gel was absorbed quickly, and the next morning I woke up with a nice tan. The only disadvantage is that you're stuck with an unpleasant smell until you can finally shower; this seems to be the case with all self-tanning products. Shisheido makes a Quick Self-Tanning Gel suitable for face and body, sold at NIS 240 for 150 ml. The Avon Bebronze self-tanning cream for face (NIS 79 for 50 ml.) was very easy to use and gave a natural look. The cream felt much like a face cream, with the difference being that it smelled somewhat unpleasant. You can apply the cream again after a few days to obtain good results. T learn where you can get Avon products, call (03) 648-5316. A mousse is an easy way to apply self-tanning, and usually yields even-looking results - something that's not always the case with a spray. A colleague who tried Dr. Fischer's sunless tanning mousse (NIS 85 for 150 ml.) reported it was very easy to use, but had to be applied several times to get a nice tan. Clinique makes a Quick Bronze tinted self-tanner mousse containing black walnut extract and glycerin to sooth the skin, sold for NIS 110 for 100 ml. Est e Lauder has self-tanning towelettes for face and d collet and for the body, each one individually wrapped; a package of 10 is NIS 140. If you're going to be exposed to the sun anyway, you should always use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 15. A very high SPF is really only critical if you have very sensitive skin, and the use of these creams may again create a false sense of security. Also, you will end up spending a lot of money, which is not really necessary. Sprays are an easy way to apply sunscreen, especially for children. Life, the private brand of SuperPharm, has a 240 ml. spray bottle containing SPF 15 lotion, for NIS 46. In the Avon Bronze series you can find a spray bottle of water-resistant sun lotion for sensitive skin, with a SPF of 15, at NIS 59 for 250 ml. (until the end of June, after which it will be NIS 89). The Shisheido brand has a Refreshing Sun Protection Spray for body and hair, which is very water-resistant, protects against free radicals and contains ingredients that sooth the skin; 150 ml. is NIS 250. For delicate skin, Sothys (available through beauticians) makes creams and lotions in the Cellu-Guard series; a 100 ml. tube of Extreme Protection Care sun block is NIS 374. This odorless cream was found to be pleasant, although you have to really rub it in. Another exclusive brand is Lancaster, which has an Ultra Soothing Protection sun lotion for delicate skin, containing SPF 40, sold at NIS 245 for 150 ml.; the Lancaster sun lotion supposedly protects against free radicals, thereby limiting signs of aging. The lightly scented lotion has a nice light texture, and is easily absorbed. More affordable, while still offering high protection, are the NIVEA moisturizing sun lotions; the lotion containing SPF 40 is sold for NIS 100 for 200 ml. SkinGard has changed the look of its sunscreen bottles, which are now grouped by color; orange is for the body, while white is for the face. Prices range from NIS 52 to NIS 128.